Big time golf comes to Jersey City this weekend, with every bold face name: Tiger (since withdrawn), Rory, etc. on hand for the first leg of the FedExCup being held at Liberty National Golf Club, in the shadow of lower Manhattan.
Leading the way into the field is the outspoken and unassailable Brooks Koepka, who took time away from Wednesday’s Pro Am to talk about his year, pace of play and some other interesting programs that have golf on the rise again this year.
Koepka is in the midst of a stellar year with three PGA Tournament wins, those being the PGA Championship, World Golf Championships- FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. In relation to just the FedExCup he came in with 2,887 points which ranks him at the top of the leaderboard.
When asked how he felt about this particular course he responded with great enthusiasm especially since the last time he played here he helped his team claim the Presidents Cup. Koepka said, “Yeah, I love this place. This golf course is exciting. I think there’s about six easy holes where you really have got to make your birdies and then there’s about ten tough holes.”
The Northern Trust will be played right along side the Hudson Bay, providing several additional challenges to the golfers with the due to the abysmal weather plaguing Jersey over the four days. Koepka provided his insight when discussing course conditions saying, “it’s not nearly as firm as it was. It’s a little bit softer, so it will be interesting to see what the scores are at the end of the week.”
Then there is the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, in its first year across both the PGA and LPGA, where the winners of some of the toughest holes take home some massive prize money. Like the rest of his game, Koepka is leading the charge, and is grateful for both the opportunity and the ability to use the challenge to hone in on more challenging holes each week. At each of these challenges, a golfer must find a strategic advantage in order to score the highest on these holes. This type of tournament truly requires a shot-to-shot strategy be put in place especially on the more difficult holes. Koepka made it known that he became aware which holes were which during his practice rounds. He went onto say, “You can tell. There’s definitely a lot of risk/reward at each of these spots, and AON has been a huge partner to the Tour for setting the program up as a great added value for all of us.”
Brooks Koepka is known for his fast play and his outright distaste for slow players. The recent rules state each player has 40 seconds to take their shot. Still, this rule has not been enforced regularly, allowing players to still take as much time as needed. Koepka has been one of the most critical of slow playing golfers. The following captures his sentiment, “I don’t think anybody likes waiting. I get that you can take a long time for your thought process, but once you’re done thinking about it just go. What else is there to do? That’s been the problem I have.”
The lack of rule implementation by officials has specifically frustrated Koepka during play. “What I don’t understand is if I hit in the water, I have to take a penalty stroke. It’s in the rule book. And then you have 40 seconds to hit a shot. That’s in the rule book too.” In other words, rule officials do not adhere to all the guidelines equally. Many golf reporters find that Koepka is at a disadvantage with his pace of play, slower players hold him back. Koepka states, “I don’t care. I just don’t — yeah, it might annoy you, but it doesn’t affect how I play.” Based on his current place on the leaderboard, it really doesn’t seem to affect how Brooks is playing.
Koepka has been notorious in the golf world for his lack of practice and motivation when not in a competitive setting. In the past he has made comments about golf being a little boring and was asked if he actually loves golf. He immediately explained he reveres the game but has even more passion for the competition, no matter what it involves. Koepka added, “I love golf. I just like competing. I like doing anything. If we play ping-pong, I’m still going to be pretty intense with you and try to kick your butt.” Koepka sounded slightly critical when discussing how little action there is in the sport. “There’s a lot of walking involved. If you really think about it, five minutes — maybe six, seven minutes total, and the rest of the time, I’m just walking.” Koepka later explained his love for the game is strong and he is an all-around sports junkie.
Koepka came into Northern Trust as the number 1 golfer, so seeing him in the lead would not be a shocker. He understands that it is anyone’s game but when asked if he would blow a lead by being able to consistently score in the 80’s all four rounds? He replied quickly and confused, “I hope not.” Still, he went onto say that everyone has a chance in The Tour Championships. Koepka mentioned. “That’s what you want. You’ve got guys that could be ten behind and all of a sudden, guys like that. Coming into Sunday with a two-shot lead is nothing.” That is the fun part of golf when down the stretch, it’s anyone’s cup. Koepka continues to play well this year and some say he is the favorite to win the FedEx Cup and the Northern Trust championship.